The first two years under Darrell Hazell have produced some lackluster spring games. The 2013 event was a 14-0 event with very little offense. Last year was 12-7 with only slightly more offense. As we learned, the defense they were facing was hardly the 1985 Chicago Bears, so both results should have been early signs that the offense was going to struggle.
If we're to extrapolate offensive production in the spring game into regular season results we should be excited. Today was a virtual offensive explosion with seven total touchdowns and a field goal. Does this mean Purdue's defense is worse? Does this mean there are some signs of actual offensive improvement? I think overall there were some pretty big positives and maybe even some signs that the Boilermakers can get six wins and get to a bowl game.
For some, it is a four man race. The three healthy quarterbacks all played quite a bit today and had good moments combined with bad ones. Elijah Sindelar did not play as he continues to recover from a torn ACL, and that likely puts him far enough back that we can expect a redshirt year from him. Here is what the other three did:
Danny Etling - 11-16-1, 148 yards, 0 TD, -16 yards rushing
Austin Appleby - 10-18-1, 147 yards, 1 TD, 4 yards rushing
David Blough - 16-22-1, 173 yards, 2 TD, 39 yards rushing
All three quarterbacks threw interceptions. Blough's pick went off the hands of Keyante Green and was intercepted by Andy James Garcia. Etling's was also off the receiver's hands (DeAngelo Yancey), popped into the air, and was returned to the one yard line by Antonio Blackmon. Both of those could be placed on the receiver more than the quarterback. Appleby's pick was a poor throw over the middle that was intercepted by JaWhaun Bentley. Bonus points though because, hey, we FINALLY defended the middle of the field.
Etling, however, nearly threw two more picks that were dropped and would have been touchdowns. Robert Gregory and Brandon Roberts had nothing but green in front of them and simply did not catch the ball.
Overall, Blough was the best on the day, Appleby had moments, including a nice 59-yard TD to Trae Hart, but Blough's TDs were pretty. One was an 11-yard fade to Myles Norwood where Blough used his legs to avoid getting sacked before floating a pass to a wide open Norwood. The second was a 21-yard strike to Yancey where DeAngelo outfought the defender for the score. Blough's elusiveness was on display quite a bit as he had a few first downs and did a lot with his feet. If anything, Blough and Appleby seemed to separate themselves from Etling today. If I had to pick one it would be Blough, but I can understand why Hazell would go with Appleby's experience.
Last week in the jersey scrimmage it was Markell Jones that did a lot. Today there were not huge numbers in the running game, but D.J. Knox had a few good runs and had 41 yards and 2 TDs. Keyante Green had 63 yards and a score, but for the most part the offense seemed to concentrate on the passing game. David Yancey had one carry, but it was for a nice 8-yard TD.
It looks like Jones, Green, and Knox are your top three in some order. Knox is a hard runner and had a few plays where he was leveling defenders. Green can be shifty and is good between the tackles.
Your leader on the day was the speedy Bilal Marshall. He is a junior that was part of Danny Hope's famous 5 QB class as one of those QBs. He moved to receiver, but so far has more passing attempts (1) than receptions in his career. Today he had five catches for 81 yards. Hart, Yancey, and Cameron Posey all had pretty good days, while Danny Anthrop sat as he continued his own ACL recovery. At tight end Cole Herdman had four catches for 48 yards.
Overall the receivers were able to help out their quarterbacks by getting more separation and getting more yards after the catch. Yancey's TD was a very tough catch while defended, as was Hart's. Newcomer Anthony Mahoungou had three catches for 28 yards too.
Ra'Zahn Howard - He had a sack for his only tackle.
Keiwan Jones - The redshirt freshman also had a sack for his only tackle.
Antoine Miles - The sophomore rush end has done very little to this point, but he did lead the black team with eight tackles today.
Jimmy Herman - It appears we have a second linebacker to go with Bentley, as Herman had seven tackles, a sack, and two tackles for loss.
Purdue is awfully young in the secondary, but walk-ons Race Johnson and Antonio Blackmon both had huge games. Johnson, a sophomore from Carmel, had six tackles to lead the gold team. Blackmon, a redshirt freshman from Ft. Wayne Dwenger, had four tackles and a 27 yard interception return. It remains to be seen if they will play during the season, but they did look the part today.